Karaka's Clean Sweep of HK Triple Crown   28 May 2012

The talented stayer Liberator has taken the biggest race victory of his career beating fellow Karaka graduate Ambitious Dragon in the final leg of Hong Kong's Triple Crown, the HK$8 million HK-1 Champions & Chater Cup (2400m) at Sha Tin last night.

With Hong Kong's Horse of the Year Ambitious Dragon (Pins) having won the first two legs of the Triple Crown - the HK-1 Stewards' Cup (1600m) and the HK-1 Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m) - it was Liberator who claimed race honours in the final leg giving Karaka graduates a clean sweep in the prestigious Triple Crown.

Ridden by jockey Weichong Marwing, the four-year-old gelding Liberator (Encosta de Lago x Miss Helga) raced close to the pace in the 2400 metre feature, with Ambitious Dragon (Pins) racing at the back of the field.

Liberator Chater Cup
Liberator races away to give Karaka a clean sweep of Hong Kong's Triple Crown. Photo courtesy of the HKJC.
After increasing the tempo and contesting the lead at the 800 metre mark, Liberator took control of the race 600 metres from home and kicked clear in the straight, with a brilliant performance holding off the fast finishing Ambitious Dragon to win by a length-and-a-half.

"He has improved so much and the race just panned out so well for him because if he sits on the outside of a horse he's at his best," said Liberator's trainer David Ferraris.

"If he can sit on a horse's girth and travel comfortably, he's hard to run down. I knew when he kicked hard like that the rest would have to pick up their feet because he's an out and out stayer. It was a very good move from Marwing because if they had kept up the slow tempo they would have out sprinted us."

Liberator was purchased by the Hong Kong Jockey Club from Gordon Cunningham's Curraghmore Stud at New Zealand Bloodstock's 2009 Karaka Premier Sale for $360,000. He was then offered at the 2009 Hong Kong International Sale where the son of Encosta de Lago was purchased by Siu Kim Sun Martin for HK$5 million.

"Most of these nice horses are bought from overseas trainers but it's nice to bring one up from scratch. He will have a well-earned rest now and we will aim him at the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase in December," said Ferraris.

Bred by Caradale Pty Ltd, Liberator is raced by the 06/07 David Ferraris Trainer Syndicate and the four-year-old's record now stands at 23 starts for 5 wins and seven placings for over $1.3 million in stakes.

Ambitious Dragon was looking to become just the second horse to win all three legs of the Triple Crown, a feat accomplished only by River Verdon (Be My Native) in 1994.

His wins in the first two legs were outstanding performances and his second placing last night was every bit up to the high standard that has become expected from the reigning Horse of the Year.

Untested over 2400 metres, the race was unchartered territory for Ambitious Dragon and his trainer Tony Millard was very proud of the five-year-old's performance.

"He was very gallant in defeat and I couldn't be happier with him. He just got found out by a top-class ride from Marwing."

Bred by Mr Pat Lowry, Ambitious Dragon was offered by Belvedere Farm at the 2008 Karaka Select Sale and has won 10 of his 20 starts for over NZ$6.3 million in stakes.

New Zealand bred horses and Karaka graduates were to the fore last night at Sha Tin winning five races on the 11-race card.

Scarlett Camellia (Spartacus) continued his impressive start he has made in Hong Kong. Winning his only race last season for trainer Danny Shum, the four-year-old has won three of his six starts this season including last night's Class 3 Oriental Express Handicap (1600m).

Mega Castle (Brilliance) took his second win of the season for trainer Manfred Man in the Class 5 Quicken Away Handicap (1600m), while Isitide (Istidaad) was successful for trainer Andreas Schutz in the Class 4 River Verdon Handicap, also over a mile, bringing up his first win in Hong Kong.

The John Size trained Real Specialist (Storming Home) is another that is making his way through the grades. From 10 starts the four-year-old has won five races including the Class 2 Viva Pataca Handicap (1800m) last night by an impressive two-and-a-quarter-lengths.

(NZ Bloodstock)

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